It was almost dusk; we were mounting telescopes in a small village near the eastern border of Iran. People passing by had never seen a telescope before and wondered what they were. Some of them dared to come close and ask us about the giant tubes!
When we described what they could do, and showed them the Moon and Saturn, their eyes filled with astonishment! Then we told them that right then, a few kilometers across the border, their neighbors were looking at the same objects: “You are both enjoying the same beauty, although you are in different countries, with different languages, cultures, and religions. The sky has no border!”
This is the beauty and main goal of StarPeace, one of the Legacy Projects started during the International Year of Astronomy 2009. We have collaborated with Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) since last year to organize 30 Nights of StarPeace (30NSP), one of the longest star parties in the world. This event is similar to previous mutual public star parties between neighboring countries and takes place every April, when AWB observes the Global Astronomy Month (GAM) to celebrate the beauty of astronomy and share it with the public.
For 30NSP, we divided Earth into 10 equal segments using geographical longitude as a reference. Countries located in each segment held 3-day-long public star parties with each other. In this way, throughout the month, the starry-night experience progressed around the globe in stages.
This year 41 events in 25 countries took place during 30NSP. Astronomers from North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Central and East Asia, and Australia came together, bringing with them a spirit of fellowship, communication, and a love for the sky.
It started in the U.S., Nicaragua, and Chile, and then passed on to Brazil and Venezuela. Eastern European countries came next. The Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy celebrated 30NSP with two guests from Austria and Belgium; they also had a special edition of the TV show Noi si Cerul (Us and the Sky) on Columna TV.
The Middle East was the most active segment with 11 groups holding the event. Participants in Iran, Iraq, UAE, and Pakistan had phone calls with each other to share the spirit of peace. Then we passed to Central Asia with groups from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. Unfortunately due to bad weather some of them missed the opportunity to observe the sky, but they communicated via the web with each other.
The Indonesia-Philippines-Vietnam StarPeace event was one of the most beautiful. According to our colleague from Vietnam, “It was the first time a Vietnamese astronomy club joined in an international event.” And at the end New Zealand held a wonderful closing ceremony for 30 Nights of StarPeace 2011.
It was like a dream come true for sky lovers: 30 nights across the globe filled with thousands of regrets and thousands of hopes: Regrets for wars and hopes for peace.
To read the reports of the 30NSP 2011 events, visit our website.